Jack Cullen

When Jack Cullen sits down to write a song his aim is simple: to change the way people are feeling and leave them with a smile. “I want to see the world in a positive way and help other people, too,” he explains. “Flipping negatives into positives and spreading that message is what I’m here to do.” Distilling his positive vibe down to its purest essence, Cullen’s outlook is simple – “when life gives you lemons let’s squeeze the fuck out of them and make some sweet lemonade.”

Knowing more about where he came from may well explain this forward-looking perspective. Once a professional rugby player, he gave it all up when he realised that sport no longer made him happy. He wrote his earliest material while recovering from surgery and processing a break-up. “Bedbound and bored” he found music to be “a true medicine” and started playing gigs at open mic nights around Limerick, where he was based at the time. “I soon realised this is what I want to do with my life,” he says recalling those revelatory first few months. He eventually wound up moving back to the U.K. to pursue music full time. “At no point did it ever feel like I shouldn’t be doing this,” he says. “Life’s about taking risks. All the good stuff is on the other side.”

Seeing the positive in a negative is central to “It Doesn’t Matter,” Cullen’s first official solo single. Listing all the small things that go wrong on a daily basis (getting on the wrong train, being caught speeding and so on) he offers up a radical way of thinking; what if, instead of letting things get on top of you, you just let it go instead? “It doesn’t matter,” with its addictive hooks, uplifting pop sound, and good vibes outlook represents him perfectly. “I want to look on the bright side of any situation. Love, friendship, heartbreak. Anything that happens is just part of your story so let it happen,” he explains. “It’s leading you to where you want to be.” It may be tempting to dismiss this as overly optimistic but the sunny approach to life seems to be working for him. Having recorded a demo version of the track he thought it needed a little extra something and sent it to The Roots, as a longshot, to see if they fancied working on it. Questlove and the rest of the band loved what they heard and jumped on the track. He understandably describes this as “pretty surreal and amazing. The coolest thing is the idea that The Roots have put my music on and played to it.” “It Doesn’t Matter” is one of a clutch of songs they worked on together, with more to come in the future. “I think I’d like to send every song to them if possible,” he jokes. “There’s so much character to the way they play.”

The Roots aren’t the only people who were bowled over by “It Doesn’t Matter.” A snippet of the track was used by lofi rap producer Poetics for the hook on “Spilled My Coffee,” a recent collaboration with rappers Snøw and Rxseboy, chopping Cullen’s voice into new shapes and putting a different spin on his upbeat sound. Remixes of this version from Allday and Honne soon followed, picking up over 1.5M streams collectively. It speaks to the artist’s versatility that he can jump from intimate acoustic songwriting to working with hip-hop royalty and be accepted into the lofi rap scene, a community united not by geographical location but musical innovation.

Connecting with people online is one thing but Cullen is a romantic for the live experience, no surprise for an artist who cut his teeth playing live on lively nights in Ireland. “I love getting people in a room and performing for people,” he says. “Whether it’s 50, 500 or 10,000 people, it’s the best feeling ever.” The recent return of live shows has reminded him of what it means to connect with people and talks about the magic between a performer and audience. “The energy in the room is amazing. I want to make people feel how I have felt and fall in love with music. If I’m inspiring a young Jack to fall in love with music then that’s just the best thing.”

Even for someone as naturally optimistic as Cullen, the past 18 months have been a test (“One of the best things I have learned is patience,” he says) but now he feels ready to take his biggest step forward. “I’ve had the analogy of being on the start line for a big race in my mind throughout all of this. I’ve been wanting to go for years now but I have the belief that my music will reach people when it matters.” Sewing silver lines into clouds comes as second nature, whether it’s his own or those who simply pass into his orbit. His race is just about to begin.

Based In: London, UK

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